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General Audience: Pope Looks Back on Visit to Bulgaria, North Macedonia

‘I was guided in Bulgaria by the lively memory of Saint John XXIII.’

This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:10 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.

In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on his Apostolic Journey to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, which ended yesterday evening (Biblical passage: From the Gospel according to Luke 12:22.30-32).

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.

The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

* * *

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I returned yesterday evening from a three-day Apostolic Journey, which took me to Bulgaria and North Macedonia. I thank God for enabling me to make these visits, and I renew my gratitude to the Civil Authorities of these two countries, which received me with great courtesy and availability. My most cordial “thank you” goes to the Bishops and to the respective Ecclesial Communities for the warmth and devotion with which they accompanied my pilgrimage.

I was guided in Bulgaria by the lively memory of Saint John XXIII, who was sent to that country in 1925 as Visitor and then as Apostolic Delegate. Animated by his example of pastoral benevolence and charity, I met that people — called to be a bridge between Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, — with the motto “Pacem in Terris,” I invited all to walk on the way of fraternity and on this way I had, in particular, the joy of taking a step forward in the meeting with Patriarch Neofit of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Members of the Holy Synod. In fact, as Christians, our vocation and mission are to be sign and instrument of unity, and we can be so, with the help of the Holy Spirit putting first what unites us to what has divided or still divides us.

Present-day Bulgaria is one of the lands evangelized by Saints Cyril and Methodius, whom Saint John Paul II placed next to Saint Benedict as Patrons of Europe. At Sofia, in the majestic Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky, I paused in prayer before the sacred image of the two Holy Brothers. Of Greek origin, they were able to use their culture with creativity, to transmit the Christian message to the Slav people. They invented a new alphabet with which they translated the Bible and liturgical texts into the Slavic language. Also today, there is need of passionate and creative evangelizers, so that the Gospel can reach all those that still don’t know it and be able to water again the lands where the ancient Christian roots are parched. With this horizon, I celebrated the Eucharist twice with the Catholic community in Bulgaria and encouraged it to be hopeful and generative. I thank those people of God again, who showed me so much faith and so much affection.

The last act of the journey in Bulgaria was carried out together with the representatives of the different religions: we invoked from God the gift of peace, while a group of children carried lighted torches, symbol of faith and hope.

In North Macedonia, I was accompanied by the strong spiritual presence of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was born in Skopje in 1910 and received, in her parish there, the Sacraments of Christian Initiation and learned to love Jesus. In this woman, minute but full of strength thanks to the Holy Spirit’s action in her, we see the image of the Church in that country and in other peripheries of the world: a small community that, with the grace of Christ, becomes a welcoming home where many are restored for their life. At Mother Teresa’s Memorial, I prayed, in the presence of other religious leaders and of a large group of poor, and I blessed the first stone of a Shrine dedicated to her. North Macedonia is a country that has been independent since 1991. The Holy See has sought to support its path from the beginning. I wished to encourage especially, with my journey, its traditional capacity to host different ethnic and religious groups, as well as its commitment in welcoming and helping a great number of migrants and refugees during the critical period of 2015 and 2016.

It is a young country from the institutional point of view; a small country in need of opening itself to wide horizons without losing its own roots. Significant, therefore, was the fact that the meeting with young people happened there. They were boys and girls from different Christian Confessions and also from other religions, all united by the desire to build something beautiful in life. I exhorted them to dream big and to get involved, as young Agnes — the future Mother Teresa — listening to God’s voice who speaks in prayer and in the flesh of needy brothers.

In addition to the testimonies of young people, in Skopje, I listened to those of priests and of consecrated persons, men, and women who have given their life to Christ. For them, sooner or later, comes the temptation to say: “Lord, what is this small gift of mine in face of the problems of the Church and of the world?” Therefore, I reminded them that a little leaven can make the whole dough grow, and a little perfume — pure and concentrated — can permeate with a lovely scent the whole environment. It’s the mystery of Jesus-Eucharist, seed of new life for the whole of humanity. The Holy Mass celebrated in the Square of Skopje, renewed once again in the periphery of today’s Europe, the miracle of God, who with a few loaves and fish, broken and shared, satiates the hunger of the multitudes.

We entrust to His inexhaustible Providence the present and future of the peoples I visited on this trip.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

 

In Italian

Proclaimed Blessed last Saturday in Mexico City was Maria de la Concepcion Cabrera, mother of a family, who witnessed the salvific value of Christ’s Cross, inspiring the foundation of various religious and lay institutions. We thank God for this, His courageous witness!

A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.

I’m happy to receive the Capitulars of the Capuchin Tertiaries; the new Priests of the Legionaries of Christ, with their relatives; the docents and students of the Pontifical Athenaeum “Regina Apostolorum” of Rome, on the 25th anniversary of its foundation.

I greet the parish groups; the school institutes, in particular, the “Leonardo da Vinci” Lyceum of Pescara and the Highlands Institute of Rome; the “Bell of Peace” delegation of Vigo di Fassa and that of Cisco Italia, and of the Meter Association, committed against the exploitation of children.

A special thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.

Observed today is the Supplication to Our Lady of Pompeii.  We are in spiritual union with all those in that Marian Shrine, as elsewhere, who will come together at midday to recite with faith the Prayer to Our Lady, so that She may turn her gaze on the world and intercede for the whole Church and for all those suffering in body and in spirit.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

About Virginia Forrester

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